Free Her From The Fire Of Dowry

It is a woman who endures and braves unbearable agony; it is a woman who sacrifices her dignity, her honor and her glory for those around her who ceaselessly disregard her. It is time that we understand that since day one, she’s already had everything she needs within herself; it is the world that convinced her she did not.

With trafficking, female feticide & infanticide, physical abuse and eve teasing around we often forget about another pervasive crime that is widely prevalent but frequently ignored, that is dowry harassment which at times leads to dowry deaths.

What is dowry? According to me, it is the societal perception of a woman being less valuable or less constructive than her male counterpart that defines a woman’s place in our patriarchal society.  This results in “Zero-Political Status”, and denial of basic civil rights such as education and employment in the fairly conservative strata of our society. Dowry, according to me, is a clear assurance of the fact that our gender determines our worth or significance. Since worth is distributed unequally among genders at birth, a “shortage of worth” among females is balanced by material additives – that is dowry. The roots of this worth deficiency of women are so deep-rooted that even the brides who earn more than their husbands are made to feel an obligation to supply dowry goods and services along after their marriage just as are the women who earn nothing. On the other side, a bride from a fairly financially unstable family, who is also dependent on her parents, goes on to become a burden, as the pressure of the payment of dowry solely falls on the shoulders of her father.

But has dowry always existed? There is a widely understood misconception that dowry has historically been a huge part of our culture and tradition, however let me remind you that in ancient Hindu marriage traditions it was always a “Swayamvara” that was conducted and not a “Swayamavadhu”, where the bride chose a worthy husband and not the groom, where the groom had to prove himself like how in Ramayana,  Lord Ram had to prove himself by lifting Shiva’s bow and how in Mahabharata, Arjuna had to hit the eye of the fish. So, people involved in either giving or taking dowry and blaming it on their belief on “so-called” historical customs should observe the true value that has been given to women in our ancient scriptures where Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth and Parvati is the Goddess of Divine Strength and Power.

A practice that was once started in medieval India where the father provided certain amounts of gifts for the daughter to live a stable married life has now become something ugly where it is the demand of cash or gifts such as cars, property, jewelry, furniture etc. by the groom’s family as a pre-condition to marriage. However, marriage, which is supposed to be an affair of understanding and companionship, usually turns into a horrifying nightmare for the bride. In many cases, the bride has to go through an immense amount of physical and mental torture when the demands mentioned in the dowry are not met or are partially met by the bride’s family. Young women are harassed and tortured by their husbands and in-laws, which in some cases, unfortunately, leads to their death by suicide, murder or even by burning her alive, where it is often disguised as an accident or a suicide attempt.

The Government has enacted some laws against dowry such as the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005. However, as in most of the cases, the judicial system of India raises laws that are not executed properly and prove to be completely ineffective and inefficient. These laws are largely criticized for being misused. According to the National Crime Records Bureau in 2012, nearly 200,000 people were arrested for crimes related to dowry, however, only 15% of the accused were convicted.

This, I believe, is because these laws have not been administered and implemented properly. This can be observed in the table below:

No. of Dowry Deaths in 2013 and 2014

Causes Years
2013 2014
Cases Reported 8,083 8,455
Cases sent for Trial
(Including cases from previous years)
7,013 7,653
Cases in which Trial was Completed
(Including cases from previous years)
5,284 5,061
Total Cases Pending Trial at the End of the Year
(Including cases from previous years)
33,468 35,255

Through this, we can understand that every year around 8,000 cases of dowry deaths alone are reported, if the number of unreported dowry deaths is included then this number would increase exponentially. In the year 2014, 8,455 dowry deaths were reported. Out of 35,255 pending cases, only 7,653 were actually sent for trial, and out of these 7,653 cases, the trial was completed in only 5,061 cases. With the increase in the number of pending cases every year, more and more cases will continue to get stacked up, due to which many families will have to wait to fight a long battle for justice.

According to me, the most effective remedy to this issue is to bring consciousness against this evil system and spread the importance of empowerment of women – both economic and social – through their education and also through social awareness programs. The youth should also be made aware of the consequences of taking or giving dowry and should be explained the legal practices involved to stop others from being involved in this crime. Refusal by the bride’s father to pay dowry, refusal by the girls to get married if dowry is demanded, and attaching of a ‘social stigma’ to those who demand dowry can alone ultimately put an end to this system, or at least reduce its prevalence. Parents should also support their daughter through all her problems and not fall for societal pressure. It is the responsibility of the Government to raise powerful laws, the responsibility of the Executive to execute and implement all these laws productively and the responsibility of the Judiciary to make sure these laws are upheld and the guilty are convicted. I believe state governments should ensure that full-time dowry prohibition officers are appointed, just as mentioned in the Dowry Prohibition Law. The judiciary should also speed up its proceedings in such cases and should ensure that additional cases do not get stacked up at the end of each year. I believe, if possible the Government should also consider setting up courts to primarily deal with crimes committed against women.

A major development in all walks of life cannot be observed when half of us are held back; women must move ahead with the conviction that no one can make them feel inferior without their consent. The fact that I live in a society that takes pride in giving and taking dowry is completely disgraceful because remember you aren’t favoring the girl, but you are pricing your sons’ existence.

“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Thank you!

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18 thoughts on “Free Her From The Fire Of Dowry

    1. thank you so much this means a lot to me.Actually I’m a student and so things do get difficult for me at times,however your comment has encouraged me to write more often.Thank you 🙂

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  1. Hi Sanchi, the thought you have raised here is true, but lets look at the big picture here isn’t this thought true for all the human beings and not just women. After all humans have a vast source of knowledge inside them but the current system of society renders them asinine.
    Dowry is a despised legacy of our forefathers and I believe times are changing. Still, much of this issue has been politicized for ulterior motives so much so that in cities dowry is less prevalent not because of laws but because of increased penetration of education wheres in the hinterlands the situation is still the same. So until and unless executioner do not keep aside their selfish gains this problem will prevail.

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    1. Thank you.Yes I do agree with what you have said,and that’s exactly why I have even mentioned how the attitude of the bride,her husband,her parents and her in laws should be towards dowry too.However,it’s a widely known misconception that dowry doesn’t exist in cities,whereas most of it occurs in our cities due to the phenomenon “log Kya kahenge” and their ideology that it has been going on since two of our generations,let it go on.I do believe that women should take up the initiative to not fall for the pressure their put into and stay strong.please do keep visiting.😊

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  2. The reality of what women go through in India makes me embarrassed by the ‘cat hat’ wearing protesters in the United States. I hope the world realizes the truth about women living in the USA, they do not endure the agony that women do in other places in the world. I wish they would put forth their efforts to help women who are truly marginalized. Thank you so much for writing this article. And thank you also for reading about the work of the Servants of Charity in India.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome 😊 I do agree with what you’ve said, this problem requires a united worldwide approach. Women everywhere in the world are being exploited, may it be Mexico where genital mutilation is on the rise, or United States Of America with the highest no. of per capita rapes in the world, where one in 16 women have faced attempted or completed rape in their lives, or Pakistan with the highest rate of dowry deaths in the world. This problem can only be tackled when globalisation in this battle against patriarchy takes place. Thank you for visiting and I respect the initiative you have taken. 😊

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